Chain Camera

Chain Camera


Reviewed by: Trinity

Kirby Dick's idea was simple: give ten students in John Marshall High School, Los Angeles, a video camera for a week, tell them to document their lives and then get them to pass the cameras on to ten more people. A "Chain Camera".

Rather than forcing us to watch thousands of hours of footage, Dick has selected 16 stories which are presented in sequence, with cutaways of the local area. These range from the serious - the difficulties of being the first generation Armenians born in America - to the ridiculous - a fake penis beating up the camera.

Copy picture

The stories are not given the same amount of time. Dick knows how to edit the monotonous parts. Although there are some standouts - how to perform a blow-job - many of the segments fall into the worthy category. The issues that we include bulimia, the tension between ethnic groups and homosexuality. It's as if the film has tried to pick out fashionable hot topics in an attempt to give a complete picture of being an American teenager.

There's no doubt that this is a well-made documentary, but it feels like there's been outside tampering. Individually the stories ring true, but together appear to have been selected as examples of behavioural types.

This emotionally distancing approach doesn't seem right for the subject. Dick's previous acclaimed work, Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist, captured the atmosphere perfectly. Here, there's something not quite right.

In the way that Out Of Breath, a documentary about teenage life in Missouri, both manages to create a coherent and believable portrait, Chain Camera takes 16 brilliant tales of hope, humour, lack of focus, tension, anxiety and love and turns them into a throwaway social comment.

Reviewed on: 09 Aug 2001
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High school life seen through the eyes of 16 student videologues.
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Director: Kirby Dick

Starring: The students of John Marshall High School

Year: 2001

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: USA,


EIFF 2001

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